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Phillip R. Greaves

Phillip R. Greaves

Phillip R. Greaves, author of a self-published book on pedophilia, was released yesterday after spending more than three months in jail.

From BBC News:

Phillip Greaves pleaded no contest on Wednesday in Florida to a charge of distributing obscene material depicting minors engaged in harmful conduct… He was arrested in December after he sold a copy of the self-published book to an undercover detective in Florida.  He was arrested in Colorado on behalf of prosecutors in Polk County, Florida, and was extradited to the southern US state. (Read the full article).

It all started last fall when Anderson Cooper spearheaded CNN’s crusade against Greaves. The goal, at first, was just to compel Amazon.com to stop selling Greaves’s book.  Amazon initially responded by saying that it supported the author’s rights to free speech:

Amazon believes it is censorship not to sell certain books simply because we or others believe their message is objectionable.

Amazon does not support or promote hatred or criminal acts, however, we do support the right of every individual to make their own purchasing decisions.

Viewers of AC360 were then encouraged to boycott Amazon.com until the website pulled the book.  Predictably, Amazon eventually reneged on its commitment to the First Amendment, removing the book from its website within a day.

But here’s what CNN and Cooper failed to mention.  Nobody besides the author had ever read, purchased, or even heard of this book until CNN started giving it free publicity.  To hear the CNN pundit tell it, it was as if the book were a national bestseller.  But in reality, Greaves’s typo-filled book hadn’t even been published by an actual publisher.  It was only available in Kindle form.  Absolutely anybody is eligible to sell their crap on Amazon in Kindle form.  But neither Amazon nor Greaves were getting on account of this book.  In fact, guess how many copies had sold before CNN went berserk?  Just one.  So even though CNN ultimately succeeded in preventing Amazon from “selling” the book, the cable news network likely caused more readers (including real-life pedophiles) to buy the book than Greaves ever could have sold himself in the absence of a national freak out.  (Let this be a First Amendment lesson for all major media organizations: if your goal is to censor distasteful material, don’t provide it with free advertising).

But whatever good fortune the boost in Kindle sales brought to Greaves was no doubt offset by what came next.  During the global outcry surrounding Greaves, a self-righteous Florida sheriff saw an opportunity to get famous.

From Bay News 9:

Sheriff Grady Judd saw all the national attention about the book and wanted to do something about it. He had his detectives order the book.

When it got to Polk County, Judd had a judge sign an arrest warrant. Two deputies then flew to Colorado to arrest Greaves.

Greaves has no other connection to Florida.

Judd was criticized for spending money on the case. Today, Judd defended his decision to send his detectives to Colorado.

“What’s that worth to the parents across the United States? I would say an investigation like that is priceless and it cost us very little,” Judd said. “And if at the end of the day it only saved a child in Colorado from being a victim, who would argue with that? I am proud of that expenditure.”

(See news video about arrest).

It was an outcome even CNN never intended (but nonetheless celebrated).

Though ordered to serve two years probation, Greaves does not have to register as a sex offender because he was never accused of actually molesting a child, only thinking about it and fantasizing about it in writing. He told Bay News 10 that he intended to celebrate his release with a pizza and a Dr. Pepper in a local motel last night.  Today, he will attempt to purchase a bus ticket back to Colorado using social security checks that accumulated during the

As Greaves was released yesterday, he told told reporters:

I don’t really think that I did anything that was so terribly wrong. I was trying to be objective, I was trying to reach out and help people that everybody hates and it backfired on me.

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new_sheepLast night I was trying to find the latest news on Barack Obama’s cabinet appointments, when I ventured to the front page of the CNNPolitics.com, and was thoroughly annoyed by the headline they’d placed atop all the others: “Is Romney the Man to Save GOP in 2012?”

This is not news now, and might not even be news later. Something that may or may not happen four years from now is not a current event. Yet, there it is, the top story at CNN.

Presidential elections in this country now last for over half the length of a sitting president’s term. The 2008 elections are barely a week behind us, and already we’re blitzed with speculation and hearsay about what’s in store for 2012. Perhaps Americans wouldn’t be so economically screwed today if, back in 2004, when the mortgage crisis was still avoidable, our citizens been less concerned about when Hillary would officially announce her future plans to run for President?

As unprofessional as our friends in the mainstream media have been, the “dumbing down” of the news is as much our fault as it is theirs. They are, after all, in the business of making money. The higher their ratings soar, the easier it is to find sponsors willing to pay to advertise during their programs. That means what we see on the so-called “news” is a function of what we most desire to see—and not a reflection of what is important. If, collectively, we were more informed, we’d be outraged over the fact that this bullshit passes as newsworthy. We’d cry out for details about Blackwater shadiness, or about the growing U.S.-Pakistan conflict. Were we an engaged citizenry, our sneaky Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson wouldn’t have gotten away with his $140 billion gift to banks, courtesy of taxpayers.

In fact, fuck it; I’m deleting CNN.com from my Mozilla bookmark icons. For too long I’ve let that network remain my “most trusted source” of Internet news every morning, the site I check when time only permits me to check one. As MSNBC leans Leftward and Fox News bends unapologetically back toward the Right, many viewers remain convinced (as I was until recently) of CNN’s fairness and neutrality. Is that because they dump on all U.S. presidential candidates equally? Of course, nearly all my early assumptions about media bias were misguided or wrong, starting with the premise that “news” should be considered “objective” and “fair” so long as it doesn’t clearly favor one major political party over the other. That might have made sense; but only if all possible worldviews and political stances were covered by one major political party or the other.

But another imbalance exists, taking the form of an apparent consensus, by all mainstream news channels, to over-report on the presidential race and under-report on everything else. That’s where the real bias lives. They do it because they’re lazy and self-absorbed; they get away with it because, so are we.  Far from being fed up with these overblown non-stories, we rather prefer to read trumped up rumors about John McCain’s mental health fluctuations or Barack Obama’s scandalous adolescent acquaintanceships—while American wars persist on multiple fronts and our economy continues to crumble.

I don’t mean to imply that election outcomes are not important. But the day-to-day gossip mill that churned out pages of useless trivia about different spats among presidential hopefuls is not (as CNN would have you assume) the most pressing news event on any given day.

ashley-dupre-spitzers-prostitute2So engrossed were we in our own insular political sideshows that it barely registered when noteworthy events occurred outside of U.S. borders. So, if you’re from one of those countries that are having a crappy decade, please pardon our outward indifference to your plight. We have no idea what’s happened in the world these last two years. We missed it all, or tried to. Eliot Spitzer’s prostitute’s sucky MySpace songs got more play than genocide in Sudan, the Cyclone Nargis, and the Sichuan Earthquake combined.

The hyping and overmarketing of presidential campaigns lets the media to ignore the crucial or controversial news stories. This is good for the media because it can refrain from reporting real-life news that might aggravate their sponsors. And while this is problematic on their part, we viewers give them an excuse by reinforcing the notion that we care more about the presidential race than we do about other important happenings in the world today. That we care more and more about the presidential rumor mill means we care less—or not at all—about Congress passing some obscure, quickly buried bill that will allow domestic spying or torture. We care more about which presidential candidate’s religious affiliates offended which rich white person today.

Rather than solely condemn CNN and Fox News for the stories they choose or refuse to supply, one might blame the American citizens for our own spoiled ignorance and the information we do or do not demand.

As a result of the media’s failure to cover stories outside the soap opera, any sly scumbag with aspirations to cheat, swindle or manipulate large majorities of people knows to wait until election season to do it. Alas, perhaps that’s why the next campaign season is starting before our wet-behind-the-ear President Elect even knows who his Secretary of State is.

Still, there are some who saw and see nothing wrong with the saturation of Election ’08 coverage. They believe they need to mull over the vibes they get from the candidates, and that requires constant surveillance. As long as we crave that overconsumption, CNN will happily pour provide it; see which comes up with the goofiest Freudian slip; inspect their medical records; condemn the drugs they did in high school; make sure the male candidates don’t act too flamboyant; make sure the women are both feminine and sufficiently masculine; evaluate their acquaintances; insist they ditch the ones we deem too rude.

It’s a tough job—being an American citizen, juggling so many pertinent subplots at once. But we’re happy to do it, because we are “the American people”, whose honorable character is exceptional in every respect. All we ask is that there are no distractions as we’re diligently scrutinizing our candidates; our mainstream media must never burden us with trivial headlines, like:

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